I have a love/hate relationship with contests. Welcome to my conflicted, over-thought life.
On the one hand, it’s a proving ground, an opportunity to gauge your particular brand of mojo against others who ply the same craft. That’s important… none of us create in a vacuum and one of the best ways to learn is to assess other works in your field and mine them for their successes (and then alchemically integrate them into your own brand of voodoo).
On the OTHER hand, if there are “winners”, that implies there are “losers”. See, I’m all about the Infinite Game… winning and losing are a matter of attitude and perspective and the only prize worth striving for is your own excellence. Any step along that path is a “win”. In my world, no one loses.
You see the conflict.
So, as we move to the Grand Prize announcement for this temporary “finite game” of a contest, I want to extend my deep gratitude and admiration to everyone who boldly submitted their vision for the contest. Regardless of your ranking, you’ve already claimed the prize… you have plied your craft, bent your imagination towards shaping a new reality, finished it, and set it out in the world.
There can be no more noble and heroic expression of the human spirit. I applaud you all.
To the Grand Finale
It is my singular pleasure to present to you the First Place Grand Prize Winner of the Roundtable Podcast’s “Build a Better Superhero Movie” contest…
Oops. Typo. I should have said “Winners”.
Yeah, it’s a tie for first place. BOTH of these distinguished wordsmiths will receive the books and have a seat at the Roundtable Dialogs recording scheduled for early August. Please join me in congratulating… Michael Ahlf and Timothy Neiderriter!
Michael Ahlf is an IT professional and starving PhD grad student most of the time. When he’s not doing that, he can usually be found driving big stompy robots or teaching people to drive them with MechCorps.
He has previously been a completely amateur voice actor in parody works by No-Lyfe Productions, and for more than a decade played and reviewed video games on a small hobbyist website. He has spent far too many hours of his existence with his nose in almost any type of book he can get his hands on, provided his cats aren’t getting their noses between him and the book.
His favorite tabletop rpg system is classic Deadlands, and he once attempted to re-work the Street Fighter Storytelling Game mechanics to work in the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Timothy Niederriter is a freelance writer and editor, writer of science fiction and fantasy, and future victim of evil corn.
Tim loves to run his mouth. Despite being born part of a set of identical twins, Tim has aspirations of uniqueness that drive him to write on way too many projects at the same time.
Now… as you read these entries, keep in mind we didn’t ask for Batman and Superman to be specifically referenced. Placeholders for those superhero archetypes are perfectly acceptable.
And without further ado, here’s Tim’s entry:
Light and Shadow: One Small Step
The alien exile known as Solar Lady appears human, except for her phenomenal powers including space flight and invincibility. She has taken the Earth under her proverbial wing and seeks to introduce the planet to the intergalactic community, for Earth’s safety, and the safety of the rest of the universe.
Behind his mask, Protector is just a man, but his city knows him as more, a solemn guardian of all life both criminal and innocent on its streets. He cannot save every person from himself or herself, but he never stops trying, using all the science, technology and arts both martial and moral to defuse and disarm sources of harm.
Solar Lady is in battle over the Protector’s City, clashing with a raiding party of aliens. She defeats them, but the raiders’ ship crashes into the city below, causing an intense fire. Solar Lady intervenes to save bystanders and encounters Protector doing the same amidst the blaze.
After the inferno is doused by Protector and Solar Lady working together, Protector reveals that he knows why the ship crashed. He sees the Earth as a victim in the crossfire, and insists Solar Lady help him ensure a disaster like this never happens again. Solar Lady has traces of knowledge of the Galactic Peacekeepers, and decides she must go and request their help in setting Earth off-limits to predation.
Solar Lady leaves the Earth to look for a Galactic Peacekeeper base, but encounters one of their probes on the edge of Earth’s solar system. She makes contact with the machine and finds it is itself a full-fledged agent of the Peacekeepers, an AI Guardian sent to evaluate the human race’s capabilities.
Protector, meanwhile, sets about trying to find a means to fight Solar Lady evenly. He does not trust the alien, no matter how benevolent she seems. There is a cult forming around reverence to Solar Lady, and some of these are preparing for a final conflict they see as inevitable.
Solar Lady speaks to a group of humans who worship her, trying to make them disperse. However, they become violent instead. Protector intervenes to contain the ensuing riot started by cult leader. He still blames Solar Lady, and his satellites have detected the AI Guardian in orbit over Earth. Suspicious, he decides to send a tip to the government, telling them where the alien machine is in orbit. Officials order and unsuccessful attack the guardian with missiles fired from the Earth. The guardian is damaged, but is far from destroyed, and sends a distress signal to the Galactic Peacekeepers.
Solar Lady discovers Protector revealed the guardian and its location to the government. She descends to the planet’s surface to confront him. Protector has salvaged an alien weapon from the debris that fell from the guardian. He uses the weapon along with his gadgetry and vehicles to try to drive Solar Lady from the planet. Battle is joined. When both of them are exhausted and weak, and the areas they have fought within the city are damaged, the AI Guardian intervenes, shutting down Protector’s new weapon using its own connection to the technology, and offering the help of its organization to Earth, as long as they maintain a home for its newest member, Solar Lady. Protector grudgingly accepts, but only on the condition that a human, Protector himself, always oversee the Galactic Peacekeeper’s defense of the planet. Solar Lady asks Protector why he wants such power. Protector responds that he doesn’t, but if someone has to look out for human interests among the aliens. She is grateful, but the tension remains between them, and Earth is only just entering the wider community of the universe. The film ends with Solar Lady flying off to meet with the Galactic Peacekeepers, while Protector sits in his command center, looking over salvaged pieces of alien technology.
And here’s Michael’s Entry…
Brooding Dark, Smart Hero vs Naive Overpowered Hero
Plot idea: Substitute “Both heroes are idiots who just want to beat up the other until they notice the supervillain laughing at them” cliche with plot points that showcase Brooding Hero’s brainpower and planning abilities, and emphasize the relative naivety of Overpowered Hero. Substitute “both heroes notice the supervillain” with Brooding Hero leading OH by the nose to understand who the villains really are.
Act 1: Brooding Dark Hero is framed for or blamed for multiple deaths by background enemy or collateral damage resulting from fights with other high profile enemies, cementing “public image” as costumed villain and portrayed in public media as a criminal no better than the villains he fights in a manner similar to media portrayal of rival crime family heads. Newscast footage may even include roundtable discussions and speculations over which crime family / syndicate he is “really” a part of.
Act 2: Overpowered Hero sees news coverage and connects it to one of the speculated crime organizations implicated in a number of higher-profile crimes in his home city. Tracing of equipment used by villains following a fight in his home city reveals a similar connection to Brooding Hero’s home city, Overpowered Hero decides to track down / capture Brooding Hero.
Act 3: Brooding Hero finds out that Overpowered Hero is in his city (because OH never does things small and is immediately noticed by population, media, and so on). OH may even make his intentions clear with a public press conference or interview. OH immediately sets to “cleaning things up” himself thinking that by doing so he’ll find Brooding Hero, while Brooding Hero sets to surveillance and planning, cataloguing OH’s patterns and abilities in preparation for conflict. Potentially, Brooding Hero in civilian guise even confronts OH (in costume, or in civilian secret identity) with contrary-to-media opinion that Brooding Hero isn’t really a villain.
Act 4: Brooding Hero finally sets up a confrontation with OH, doing as Brooding Hero does – picking the site of initial confrontation, preparing traps, having special weaponry and equipment ready to confront Overpowered Hero. . End of fight finishes with Brooding Hero pulling a “dirty trick” maneuver to temporarily incapacitate Overpowered Hero long enough to escape, leaving behind a detailed envelope containing a folio of all the evidence pointing to the real villain, media manipulation, and source of items traced to OH crimes (organized by one of background villain’s underlings).
Act 5: Brooding Hero and Overpowered Hero team up to take out underling and cut off flow of equipment to crime syndicate in OH’s city. Endscene: OH asks why BH didn’t want him helping take out background villain directly instead, BH says there’s not enough evidence… yet.
Again, a huge congratulations to our winners and HUGE respect and appreciation to everyone who entered! It was a blast to experience the diverse and intriguing visions everyone had. This DEFINITELY proves the point that there is more than one way to tell a Hero vs. Hero story… well done ALL! 😀